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3 Reasons to be Sceptical About the Xbox Scorpio
At long last, Microsoft has started revealing some details about its long awaited Project Scorpio. No doubt they’re hoping to revitalize the Xbox brand and give themselves a decisive edge in the console war, but so far, the response has been muted. The Scorpio, despite its impressive specs, has failed to generate anything near the enthusiasm of the Nintendo Switch, and I have serious doubts as to whether it will even be worth a purchase when it finally hits shelves. Read on to find out why.
1: Specs Aren’t Everything
Microsoft claims that the Scorpio will be the most powerful console ever created, and they have the specs to back up that promise. Among other things, the console boasts a 6 teraflop GPU (techie people assure me that this is an impressive number of teraflops) and a 2.3 GHz CPU (a substantial improvement over the Xbox One’s 1.75 Ghz). This is a seriously heavyweight console, leagues ahead of Microsoft’s current offering.
Don’t get too excited though. Before you rush off to worship the unlimited cosmic power of the Scorpio, ask yourself one simple question: What are the specs of your current console? Do you even know? If you’re one of the tech-heads who does know, do you really care? The odds are good that you don’t lie awake at night wondering if you can somehow get another teraflop out of your GPU. In fact, the odds are pretty good that you don’t actually know what either of those terms means. The truth is, the vast majority of people don’t really care about the tech. They want to know if the console has games that are fun to play, and the tech is only important if it leads to improvements in the games themselves. That’s why the Wii soared to console war dominance despite its weak hardware, and why people queued up to buy the NES Classic Mini and play games from decades ago.
Blast Processing couldn’t win the console war for Sega, and 6 teraflop GPUs won’t win it for Microsoft unless they can use all that power to make games that people actually want to play. Which brings us to our next point:
2: You Can Play Exactly the Same Games on Your Xbox One
Since the age of the dinosaurs, consoles have used “killer apps”, major releases exclusive to the console, to lure in buyers. Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario 64, or the more recent Horizon Zero Dawn all served to give their consoles a unique identity and an edge over the competition. The Scorpio, though, is more of an upgraded Xbox One than an entirely new console, which means it will be sharing its game library with its predecessor. There are no Scorpio exclusives planned, and there never will be if Microsoft sticks to their current plan.
That could be a major problem for the console. For one thing, it means that all that high tech wizardry will be put to use in the service of games that must also run on a much weaker console. Improvements must therefore be largely superficial in nature. You can expect boosts to resolution, frame-rates, and loading times, but more fundamental developments are unlikely to be possible.
More importantly, it means the Scorpio won’t have any big exclusives to drive sales. There will be no Scorpio equivalent of Ocarina of Time, or Breath of The Wild, or whatever Zelda game Nintendo inevitably uses to drive sales of its next console. Aside from denying the Scorpio its own classic games and thus preventing it from forming its own identity and legacy, this will make it much harder to convince people to buy into the new console. The price of the Scorpio has yet to be confirmed, but consoles are expensive beasts, and many Xbox One owners may hesitate to shell out a few hundred dollars just to play the same games with a better frame-rate.
In theory, the new console could serve a different role, as a jumping on point for gamers who don’t yet own an Xbox One and want to get on the Microsoft train in the most up-to-date way possible. Unfortunately, this brings us to our next problem.
3: The Xbox One Library Itself is Severely Lacking
Without looking it up, name an Xbox One exclusive. Not an easy task, but you might have come up with a few games. Did you think of Halo Wars 2, a game that absolutely no one asked for? ReCore, a solid but unexceptional action game that has already faded into obscurity? Halo 5 or Gears of War 4, both belonging to franchises whose heyday has long since passed? The recent cancellation of Scalebound highlighted just how sparse the Xbox One’s list of exclusives really is, and that’s an issue that the Scorpio will inherit. It’s not an issue that’s likely to be easily solved either, as Microsoft has few big franchises of its own and a limited amount of first-party talent to draw on.
This lack of exclusives stands in stark contrast to the competition. While the PS4 is awash in unique Japanese games from every genre and the Switch offers an enviable array of Nintendo titles, the Xbox One, and therefore the Scorpio, is pinning its hopes for the future on a handful of games that no one seems very excited about. Sea of Thieves, perhaps it’s most interesting upcoming title, is being produced by a Rare long, long past their N64 prime, and the rest of the lineup simply isn’t very eye catching. Whether Microsoft will be able to convince new users to burn hundreds of dollars on their new console when the cheaper PS4 offers most of the same games and a lot more remains to be seen, but personally, I won’t be jumping on the Scorpio bandwagon just yet.